Xavi Hernandez claims Italy “are little bit Barcelona’s style and a little bit Atletico Madrid” as they are “the worst team” Spain could face at Euro 2016.
Spain beat Italy 4-0 in the final of Euro 2012 but have failed to beat the Azzurri in their last five meetings, while their last victory prior to that victory came in 1994, and it is for this reason that Xavi believes La Roja have their work cut out against a team adept in possession but also effective off the ball.
“The two teams have been dealt bad luck because this match has come too soon. It could’ve been a semi-final or final,” the veteran midfielder said of his country’s last-16 opponents to La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“[The game] will be interesting. Spain will dominate [possession] because Italy will choose not to.
“The difference between the two teams is that Spain suffer without the ball but Italy don’t. They like the battle, they’re the worst team we could face.
“We’ve always feared Italy. We’ve recently beat them but always felt we could lose [before then]. It’ll be difficult for Spain on Monday.
“[Losing to Croatia] was a big mistake. The other side of the picture was much simpler.
“Anything can happen because all the teams are good, but this side of the tournament with Germany, the British teams and France have teams who have won World Cups and European Championships.
“Italy are a little bit Barca’s style and a little bit Atletico. Chile and Netherlands played 3-5-2 against us in the World Cup and we collapsed.
“It’s a tough formation for a team who want to press high. When Italy move the ball, they do so with one of their three defenders or five midfielders, and it makes pressing them complicated.”